Talking points: Selangor’s AFC Cup lifeline

A scoreless night in Selayang and favourable results elsewhere leaves the Red Giants only needing to avoid defeat against Tampines Rovers to make the last AFC Cup last 16. Vijhay Vick listed some observations he made from Selangor’s draw with group leaders Ceres. 

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Down to the wire

The script was written. Tampines Rovers were expected to defeat winless Sheikh Jamal, leaving Selangor with the tough task of having to defeat the S.League side, had the Red Giants failed to overcome Ceres at Selayang Stadium on Tuesday.

While Selangor failed to beat Ceres, they are still in a favourable position, courtesy of Sheikh Jamal stunning Tampines 3-2 at the Bangbandhu Stadium in Dhaka.

The Bangladesh champions were expected to be steamrolled, considering how the squad struggled to fill their bench. But the tables have now turned, and Tampines must beat Zainal Abidin Hassan’s men to progress.

Ceres are top with nine points followed by Selangor (eight), Tampines (seven) and Sheikh Jamal (three).

For Selangor, the defence just needs to keep doing the same thing – record another clean sheet. Selangor have not conceded in their previous three games in all competitions and centre-back Robert Cornthwaite, who has only played five matches since returning from injury, later told the press that his partnership with Shahrom Kalam is returning to its best.

Selangor simply can’t score

Mauro Olivi dropped too deep at times. Photo: Selangor

Zainal may just have to lace up a pair of boots and relive his playing days if his Selangor side continue to struggle to find the back of the net.

Only one goal scored in three games does not augur well and to worsen matters, Selangor looked lost up front after Patrick Wleh was taken off in the 20th minute due to a rib injury.

Mauro Olivi led the line thereafter but the Argentine repeatedly dropped deep to retrieve the ball. Ahmad Hazwan Bakri, a clinical finisher during his Harimau Muda days, could have led the attack but he remained on the flanks.

Were Ceres robbed?

The visitors could have nicked this had referee Omar Mubarak Mazaroua Al Yaqoubi pointed to the spot after Azmi Muslim clipped Patrick Alcala Reinchelt in the 52nd minute.

The German-born Philippines international turned the former Malaysian left-back and looked to have broken free from the Selangor defence, only to be caught by the latter’s leg.

The media from Philippines at the stadium claimed the right-winger’s reputation for going to ground easily perhaps got the better of him on this occasion.

Had the spot-kick been given and duly converted, Ceres would have virtually secured top spot in the group.

Yet Ceres coach Frank Muescan saw little reason to dwell on the decision, preferring to focus on the fact that they had defied the odds to qualify for the next round.

Ceres, making their debut in the competition, were expected to play second fiddle to the more established Tampines and Selangor

Nazmi bossed the engine room

Nazmi Faiz bossed the midfield for Selangor. Photo: Selangor

Following his sending off for an elbow on PDRM’s Andrezinho in the Malaysia Super League (MSL) on Saturday, Nazmi Faiz Mansor’s behaviour was under scrutiny.

Prior to the match, the Zainal had warned him to keep his behaviour in check and that further indiscipline would not be tolerated as Nazmi has already been in trouble for two separate spitting incidents last year.

Nazmi responded with an impressive display that may catch the eye of Malaysian assistant coach Brad Maloney in the stands.

The 21-year-old was at the centre of almost every attacking move Selangor made and even impressed Zainal, who told FourFourTwo: “He bossed the midfield. It’s good that he got the sending off out of his mind and was able to help orchestrate our moves. Nazmi knows he has to fight for a place in the team just like everyone else … so I need to see this consistently.